New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon announced Thursday morning he’s taking a leave from football to focus on his mental health. Minutes later, NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported Gordon is facing an “indefinite suspension for violating terms of his reinstatement under the substance abuse policy.”
Gordon has said in the past his substance abuse is tied to his mental health. While it sounds like football won’t be in his immediate future regardless, it is important for Gordon to focus on what caused him to trigger another suspension. And maybe stepping away from football long-term or forever will finally help Gordon solve his issues. Or maybe his issue is with the NFL’s rules. If smoking marijuana aids, or could aid, Gordon in his mental health issues, he, unfortunately, can’t do that while pursuing an NFL career. Marijuana is still listed on the NFL’s banned substance list.
And even if this is the end for Gordon in a Patriots uniform, the team should do everything it can to get him help. The Patriots released a statement Thursday saying, “We support Josh Gordon in his continued efforts to focus on his health. His attempt to do so is a private and personal matter, which we intend to respect.”
Gordon played 11 games with the Patriots. He helped them win eight of those games, and he was their best offensive weapon for a stretch. Gordon seemed well-liked by his teammates, and they undoubtedly will be there for him. This was Gordon’s longest stretch without a suspension since 2013. The Patriots clearly were doing something right to help him, and they should continue to assist him in any way they can.
The Patriots are also in the middle of a playoff run, and this suspension/leave also affects them on the field. While this is a story of mental health and possible addiction, it’s also a football story. And the Patriots are left with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater on their wide receiver depth chart with two games left in the regular season.
We know what the Patriots’ offense looked like early in the season without Gordon and Edelman, and it wasn’t pretty. We have yet to see what the Patriots’ offense will look like with Edelman but without Gordon.
We assume Dorsett will largely fill in the void left by Gordon. Dorsett hasn’t caught a pass in four weeks, but he appeared to build a rapport with quarterback Tom Brady early in the season. Dorsett has 27 catches on 32 targets for 256 yards with two touchdowns this season.
Patterson also might take on a greater role as a wide receiver. He’s been a chess piece for the Patriots, lining up at receiver, running back, H-back and kick returner. He might need to narrow his focus on wide receiver moving forward.
It’s likely running back James White will also start to see more targets in the passing game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski also could see more passing attempts.
The Patriots’ offensive and overall potential this season certainly lessens without Gordon. But it’s not as if they were tearing up the field over the last six quarters with the talented wideout. Gordon played 58 of 63 possible snaps Sunday but caught just one 19-yard pass.
This is a complicated story. It affects Gordon and the Patriots on and off the field. The Patriots are forced to forge on ahead without one of their best players. But they can’t leave him in the rearview.